Cleanest countries in the world: A clear list of the 10 cleanest countries in 2023

The world has 196 countries. For this list I have researched the cleanest countries in the world. If you have a passion for traveling just like me, you might want to consider visiting these countries. 
Cleanest countries in the world: What country do you think is number one?

For this article I have gone through many lists of ”The cleanest countries in the world. I have spend hours upon hours researching several criteria. I have compared the lists that took the best overall criteria in consideration. This list is based on the following criteria, the EPI (environmental Performance Index), waste management, air quality index, wastewater treatment networks and their cultural attitudes towards cleanliness. 

Let me quickly explain what these criteria are.


This is short for The environmental Performance index. This index researched 180 countries and ranked them. The index is based on 3 base categories, 11 subcategories and in total 40 indicators. The 3 base categories are ecosystem vitality, climate change performance, and environmental health. This is the most extensive index used to create the list. It is the most important criteria used to make this list as it covers almost all aspects when researching for the cleanest countries in the world.

Waste management

Waste management is all about the way a country deals with its waste. When a country puts an effort into limiting their solid waste, upping their recycling rates, and preventing oceanic plastic pollution, they rank higher. 

Air quality index

The air quality index or AQI, ranks the quality of the air on a scale from 0 to 500. The more air pollution, the higher the number. The AQI basically measures air pollution and ranks countries in 6 categories from good (score 0 to 50) to hazardous (score 301 and higher). 

Wastewater treatment networks

Wastewater treatment networks is a collection of systems that work together in order to treat wastewater, so that it can be used again. Wastewater is all the ‘’used’’ water. Wastewater comes from homes, businesses and from industries. When a good wastewater treatment network is in place, this used water can be ‘’recycled’’ and used again. A good wastewater network also prevents water pollution and in turn helps fight environmental damage. 

Cultural attitudes towards cleanliness

This indicator looks at people’s willingness to keep their own environment clean. This means for example the amount of recycling by people and the use of public transport over fuel driven cars. 

Before you read the list

When reading this list, it is important to always keep in mind that each country is different. Besides the size differences and population size, there is also a big difference in development rate. The countries on this list are the countries that simply ranked highest considering the above criteria. Although the list is in order of highest to lowest EPI score, it is important to note that the other criteria are also important. 


Denmark: The cleanest country in the world. A picture of Copenhagen.

Denmark has an EPI score of 77,9. The AQI is 36. In Denmark about 53% of its waste is recycled. Denmark has extensive programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When it comes to the cultural attitude, Denmark has shown great effort. The country counts over 142 green accommodations, and many restaurants are devoted to only selling organic food. Denmark is currently the cleanest country in the world. (1)

United kingdom

The United Kingdom is second on the list ”cleanest countries in the world”.

The United Kingdom has an EPI score of 77,7. The AQI is 37. The fact that the UK scores so well is impressive considering it has the largest population of all the countries on this list. The country recycles 44,6% of its waste. 100% of the wastewater is connected to collecting systems. (2) The UK has reduced its use of coal, a non- renewable energy source, drastically over the last decade. In 2018 the country published a 25 year plan to improve the environment. 40% of the population has expressed serious concerns about the environment. (3)


Finland, known for its undisturbed nature and colder climate.

Finland has an EPI score of 76,5. The AQI is 21. Finland gets about 42% of its energy from renewable sources. The country is also working hard towards becoming carbon- neutral. Finland has prioritized maintaining its nature and biodiversity. In Finland, 41% of its waste is being recycled. Finland’s population has shown a positive attitude towards climate change. 79% have expressed the belief that not just the government, but the country as a whole is responsible for a positive change. (4)


Luxembourg, a small country with a great impact.

Luxembourg has an EPI score of 72,3. The AQI is 31. Luxembourg has invested a lot in increasing its renewable energy resources. It is now predicted that all energy consumed in Luxembourg will come from renewable resources by 2050 if the country manages to maintain its progress. 34,7% of Luxembourg’s waste is recycled. 


Malta is one of the smallest and newest editions to the ”Cleanest countries in the world” list.

Malta has an EPI score of 75,2. The AQI is 48. This score is so high because of its clean water and they also have low emission rates when it comes to greenhouse gasses. 


Sweden is a beautifull country in Northern Europe.

Sweden has an EPI score of 72,7. The AQI is 26. Sweden has exceeded when it comes to maintaining their grasslands, forests and marine life. Only 1% of Sweden waste is sent to landfills. 47% of Sweden waste is being recycled. (5) The remaining 52% is burned and turned into energy. Sweden’s attitude towards the environment is optimistic. For example, they set a goal of becoming 100% reliant on renewable energy by 2045. 


Slovenia might be the most unexpected and most beautifull country on the list.

Slovenia has an EPI score of 67,3. The AQI is 57. Slovenia has scored overall very high in the category of ecosystem vitality. Slovenia recycled about 59,3% of its waste. Slovenia has a very green- minded population. The country is known as the most passionate beekeeping country in the EU. (6) Bees are a crucial part of a healthy and biodiverse ecosystem. A surprising but welcome country on my ”cleanest countries on the world” list.


Austria is famous for its picturesque villages and high mountain ranges.

Austria has an EPI score of 66,5. The AQI is 44. Austria has a high recycling rate of 63%. The country scored very well in the ecosystem vitality category. Austria has scored high mainly because of its strict rules. Austria has implemented strong regulations when it comes to the use of pesticides and fertilizers. The population has voted in favor of even stronger regulations in favor of the environment. 


Switzerland, looks just like a movie doesn’t it?

Switzerland has an EPI score of 65,9. The AQI is 41. One of the reasons for this high EPI score is that the country scores high when it comes to clean drinking water. Switzerland recycles about 50% of its waste. (7) Switzerland is also well known for maintaining and protecting its bio-habitat.


Iceland: The country of fire and ice.

Iceland has an EPI score of 62,8. The AQI is 17. Iceland has the best air quality score of all countries on this list. Iceland has scored high on the species habitat index. Iceland gets 99,99% of its energy from  renewable sources. 

This list hopefully gave you an insight into what countries are doing in order to become the cleanest country in the world. As Denmark is currently leading, I am hopeful these numbers will become more promising over the years. 

What to do next

Planning a trip?, you might wanna check out some of these incredible countries listed above!

Traveling towards countries that make an effort into creating a better tomorrow should always be celebrated. When visiting these countries I encourage you to do your research into the local regulations for recycling. When possible, use their local public transport. Find a green accommodation and off course, don’t litter. Ever. Let’s hope these incredible countries will set an example for the rest of the world. 

Veerle van Beest

Veerle van Beest

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